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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

UNDERGROUND
MINING METHODS
CHOICE OF METHODS
By

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

Underground Mining Methods:

The goal of coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its
energy content, and, since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate
electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron
from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States, United Kingdom,
and South Africa, a coal mine and its structures are a colliery. In Australia, colliery
generally refers to an underground coal mine.
Coal mining has had many developments over the recent years, from the early days
of men tunneling, digging and manually extracting the coal on carts, to large open
cut and long wall mines. Mining at this scale requires the use
of draglines, trucks, conveyors, jacks and shearers.

Choice of Methods.
The most economical method of coal extraction from coal seams depends on the
depth and quality of the seams, and the geology and environmental factors. Coal
mining processes are differentiated by whether they operate on the surface or
underground. Many coals extracted from both surface and underground mines
require washing in a coal preparation plant. Technical and economic feasibility are
evaluated based on the following: regional geological conditions
overburden characteristics; coal seam continuity, thickness, structure, quality, and
depth; strength of materials above and below the seam for roof and floor conditions;
topography (especially altitude and slope); climate; land ownership as it affects the
availability of land for mining and access; surface drainage patterns; ground water
conditions; availability of labor and materials; coal purchaser requirements in terms
of tonnage, quality, and destination; and capital investment requirements.
Surface mining and deep underground mining are the two basic methods of mining.
The choice of mining method depends primarily on depth of burial, density of the
overburden and thickness of the coal seam. Seams relatively close to the surface, at
depths less than approximately 180 ft (50 m), are usually surface mined.
Coal that occurs at depths of 180 to 300 ft (50 to 100 m) are usually deep mined, but
in some cases surface mining techniques can be used. For example, some western
U.S. coal that occur at depths in excess of 200 ft (60 m) are mined by the open pit
methods, due to thickness of the seam 60-90 feet (20-30 m). Coals occurring below
300 ft (100 m) are usually deep mined. However, there are open pit mining
operations working on coal seams up to 1000-1500 feet (300-450 m) below ground
level, for instance Tagebau Hambach in Germany.

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

The two principal methods of underground working are pillar and stall (stoop/board
and room in) and longwall, all other systems in vogue being simply modifications or
combinations of these two systems. .{You are reading it on mineportal.in}The method
of working any seam naturally depends on local circumstances in each individual
colliery. Speaking generally, the system adopted varies according to the thickness
of the coal. Seams of 4 ft. and upwards are usually worked by the bord and pillar
method ; and seams having a thickness of less than 4 ft. are usually worked by
longwall. There are, however, exceptions to this ; some seams above 4 ft. thick
being worked by longwall, while, on the other hand, certain seams below 4 ft. are
worked by bord and pillar. Besides the thickness of the seam, the mode of working
will depend on other circumstances, such as :
a) The inclination of the strata and the nature of roof and pavement.
b) The depth of the seam from the surface.
c) The chemical and physical properties of the coal.
d) The natural cleavage of the coal and that of the rocks forming the roof.
e) The presence or absence of water.
f) The vicinity of other seams or of other workings which should not be
interfered with.
g) The number of dykes and dislocations in the field to be worked.
Modern surface mining
When coal seams are near the surface, it may be economical to extract the coal
using open cut (also referred to as open cast, open pit, or strip) mining methods.
Open cast coal mining recovers a greater proportion of the coal deposit than
underground methods, as more of the coal seams in the strata may be exploited.
Large open cast mines can cover an area of many square kilometers and use very
large pieces of equipment. This equipment can include the following: Draglines
which operate by removing the overburden, power shovels, large trucks in which
transport overburden and coal, bucket wheel excavators, and conveyors. In this
mining method, explosives are first used in order to break through the surface, or
overburden, of the mining area. The overburden is then removed by draglines or by
shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and
thoroughly mined in strips. The coal is then loaded on to large trucks or conveyors
for transport to either the coal preparation plant or directly to where it will be used.
Most open cast mines in the United States extract bituminous coal. In Canada (BC),
Australia and South Africa, open cast mining is used for both thermal
and metallurgical coals. In New South Wales open casting for steam coal
and anthracite is practised. Surface mining accounts for around 80 percent of
production in Australia, while in the US it is used for about 67 percent of production.
Globally, about 40 percent of coal production involves surface mining.

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

Strip mining
Strip mining exposes coal by removing earth above each coal seam. This earth is
referred to as overburden and is removed in long strips. The overburden from the
first strip is deposited in an area outside the planned mining area and referred to as
out-of-pit dumping. Overburden from subsequent strips are deposited in the void
left from mining the coal and overburden from the previous strip. This is referred to
as in-pit dumping.
It is often necessary to fragment the overburden by use of explosives. This is
accomplished by drilling holes into the overburden, filling the holes with
explosives, and detonating the explosive. The overburden is then removed, using
large earth-moving equipment, such as draglines, shovel and trucks, excavator and
trucks, or bucket-wheels and conveyors. This overburden is put into the previously
mined (and now empty) strip. When all the overburden is removed, the underlying
coal seam will be exposed (a block of coal). This block of coal may be drilled and
blasted (if hard) or otherwise loaded onto trucks or conveyors for transport to the
coal preparation (or wash) plant. Once this strip is empty of coal, the process is
repeated with a new strip being created next to it. This method is most suitable for
areas with flat terrain.
Equipment to be used depends on geological conditions. For example, to remove
overburden that is loose or unconsolidated, a bucket wheel excavator might be the
most productive. The life of some area mines may be more than 50 years.
Contour mining
The contour mining method consists of removing overburden from the seam in a
pattern following the contours along a ridge or around the hillside. This method is
most commonly used in areas with rolling to steep terrain. It was once common to
deposit the spoil on the downslope side of the bench thus created, but this method of
spoil disposal consumed much additional land and created severe landslide and
erosion problems. To alleviate these problems, a variety of methods were devised to
use freshly cut overburden to refill mined-out areas. These haul-back or lateral
movement methods generally consist of an initial cut with the spoil deposited
downslope or at some other site and spoil from the second cut refilling the first. A
ridge of undisturbed natural material 15 to 20 ft (5-6 m) wide is often intentionally
left at the outer edge of the mined area. This barrier adds stability to the reclaimed
slope by preventing spoil from slumping or sliding downhill.
The limitations of contour strip mining are both economic and technical. When the
operation reaches a predetermined stripping ratio (tons of overburden/tons of coal),
it is not profitable to continue. Depending on the equipment available, it may not be
technically feasible to exceed a certain height of highwall. At this point, it is possible
to produce more coal with the augering method in which spiral drills bore tunnels

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

into a highwall laterally from the bench to extract coal without removing the
overburden.
Mountaintop removal mining
Mountaintop coal mining is a surface mining practice involving removal of
mountaintops to expose coal seams, and disposing of associated mining overburden
in adjacent valley fills. Valley fills occur in steep terrain where there are limited
disposal alternatives.
Mountaintop removal combines area and contour strip mining methods. In areas
with rolling or steep terrain with a coal seam occurring near the top of a ridge or hill,
the entire top is removed in a series of parallel cuts. Overburden is deposited in
nearby valleys and hollows. This method usually leaves ridge and hill tops as
flattened plateaus. The process is highly controversial for the drastic changes in
topography, the practice of creating head-of-hollow-fills, or filling in valleys with
mining debris, and for covering streams and disrupting ecosystems.
Spoil is placed at the head of a narrow, steep-sided valley or hollow. In preparation
for filling this area, vegetation and soil are removed and a rock drain constructed
down the middle of the area to be filled, where a natural drainage course previously
existed. When the fill is completed, this underdrain will form a continuous water
runoff system from the upper end of the valley to the lower end of the fill. Typical
head-of-hollow fills are graded and terraced to create permanently stable slopes.
Underground mining
Most coal seams are too deep underground for opencast mining and require
underground mining, a method that currently accounts for about 60 percent of world
coal production. In deep mining, the room and pillar or bord and pillar method
progresses along the seam, while pillars and timber are left standing to support the
mine roof. Once room and pillar mines have been developed to a stopping point
(limited by geology, ventilation, or economics), a supplementary version of room
and pillar mining, termed second mining or retreat mining, is commonly started.
Miners remove the coal in the pillars, thereby recovering as much coal from the coal
seam as possible. A work area involved in pillar extraction is called a pillar section.
Modern pillar sections use remote-controlled equipment, including large hydraulic
mobile roof-supports, which can prevent cave-ins until the miners and their
equipment have left a work area. The mobile roof supports are similar to a large
dining-room table, but with hydraulic jacks for legs. After the large pillars of coal
have been mined away, the mobile roof supports legs shorten and it is withdrawn to
a safe area. The mine roof typically collapses once the mobile roof supports leave an
area.

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

There are six principal methods of underground mining:


Longwall mining accounts for about 50 percent of underground production. The
longwall shearer has a face of 1,000 feet (300 m) or more. It is a sophisticated
machine with a rotating drum that moves mechanically back and forth across a wide
coal seam. .{You are reading it on mineportal.in}The loosened coal falls on to a pan
line that takes the coal to the conveyor belt for removal from the work area. Longwall
systems have their own hydraulic roof supports which advance with the machine as
mining progresses. As the longwall mining equipment moves forward, overlying
rock that is no longer supported by coal is allowed to fall behind the operation in a
controlled manner. The supports make possible high levels of production and safety.
Sensors detect how much coal remains in the seam while robotic controls enhance
efficiency. Longwall systems allow a 60-to-100 percent coal recovery rate when
surrounding geology allows their use. Once the coal is removed, usually 75 percent
of the section, the roof is allowed to collapse in a safe manner.

Continuous Miner used underground


Continuous mining utilizes a Continuous Miner Machine with a large rotating
steel drum equipped with tungsten carbide teeth that scrape coal from the seam.
Operating in a room and pillar (also known as bord and pillar) system-where the
mine is divided into a series of 20-to-30 foot (5-10 m) rooms or work areas cut into
the coalbed , it can mine as much as five tons of coal a minute, more than a non-
mechanised mine of the 1920s would produce in an entire day. Continuous miners
account for about 45 percent of underground coal production. Conveyors transport
the removed coal from the seam. Remote-controlled continuous miners are used to
work in a variety of difficult seams and conditions, and robotic versions controlled
by computers are becoming increasingly common. Continuous mining is a
misnomer, as room and pillar coal mining is very cyclical. In the US, one can
generally cut 20 ft or 6 meters (or a bit more with MSHA permission) (12 meters or
roughly 40 ft in South Africa before the Continuous Miner goes out and the roof is
supported by the Roof Bolter), after which, the face has to be serviced, before it can
be advanced again. During servicing, the continuous miner moves to another face.
Some continuous miners can bolt and dust the face (two major components of
servicing) while cutting coal, while a trained crew may be able to advance
ventilation, to truly earn the continuous label. However, very few mines are able to

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WINNING & WORKINGS [UNDERGROUND MINING METHODS CHOICE OF METHODS]

achieve it. Most continuous mining machines in use in the US lack the ability to bolt
and dust. This may partly be because incorporation of bolting makes the machines
wider, and therefore, less maneuverable.
Room and pillar mining consists of coal deposits that are mined by cutting a
network of rooms into the coal seam. Pillars of coal are left behind in order to keep
up the roof. The pillars can make up to forty percent of the total coal in the seam,
however where there was space to leave head and floor coal there is evidence from
recent open cast excavations that 18th century operators used a variety of room and
pillar techniques to remove 92 percent of the in situ coal. However, this can be
extracted at a later stage .
Blast mining or conventional mining, is an older practice that
uses explosives such as dynamite to break up the coal seam, after which the coal is
gathered and loaded on to shuttle cars or conveyors for removal to a central loading
area. This process consists of a series of operations that begins with cutting the
coalbed so it will break easily when blasted with explosives. This type of mining
accounts for less than 5 percent of total underground production in the US today.
Shortwall mining, a method currently accounting for less than 1 percent of deep
coal production, involves the use of a continuous mining machine with movable roof
supports, similar to longwall. The continuous miner shears coal panels 150 to 200
feet (40 to 60 m) wide and more than a half-mile (1 km) long, having regard to
factors such as geological strata.
Retreat mining is a method in which the pillars or coal ribs used to hold up the
mine roof are extracted; allowing the mine roof to collapse as the mining works back
towards the entrance. This is one of the most dangerous forms of mining, owing to
imperfect predictability of when the ceiling will collapse and possibly crush or trap
workers in the mine.

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